Today marks my 💯 milestone! Usually I read about 100 books for the year, but 2020 has influenced my reading habits immensely. Staying at home means I am either working in the yard, writing on the computer, or reading in my hammock. Guess which one garnered most of my dedication?
And the 💯th book is….
Yes, without intentionally doing so, my 💯th book for this year is a book by a Reader writing about reading specifically “The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life.”
Even though school starts for me on Monday, I shall continue reading. I have four more months until the end of the year. Hmm, how many more books can I squeeze in by the Goodreads tally deadline?
What are your guesses?
State a guess in the comments below and we will see what happens by December!
Recently in an e-mail a student inquired how my coronacation was going. I can’t say I feel like a pandemic stay-at-home has the feel of a vacation. It’s not even a staycation since I am not electing to stay home to lounge out. I am staying home (when masses of people are not) because it’s the wise, safe, and healthy decision for the times upon us. Besides I’m working. My computer and I have a love/hate relationship going at present. I love that I have a reliable laptop, yet I hate how I’m chained to it 6-8 hours a day as I create lesson videos, watch webinars to create lesson plans, answer emails, write emails, log the emails and phone calls I make to students and families, and grade the assignments that trickle in. Then again, that sounds like I’m complaining I have meaningful work, and for that noisome whine, I apologize. I will say I have developed eye twitching from all the constant screen use. Blink more. Thank you. I will do that.
As for reading? I would usually be jumping up and down to have so much “extra” time to read. Having something to read, and having the inclination to read are needed to create a Reader’s Round Up. Honestly, when I do find time to read I end up napping. Maybe I will create a monthly blog post titled “Nap Chat” in which I discuss my best and favorite naps of the month. For now, highlight books read during April:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ *weighing in at over 600 pages of small print, it kept me occupied for at least a week Wilkie Collins, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, writes in the similar fashion of florid description, and memorable characterization within a complex plot. An intriguing tale filled with twists and turns, A Woman in White is a mystery that provides a grand story of mistaken identities, sleuthing, secrets, and deception. The BBC adaptation is similar to Collins’ novel, yet as they say, the book is the book and the movie the movie.”
Extras by Scott Westerfield ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ *one of the quick grabs off my classroom shelf before everything shut down—it’s a popular series with my students, so why not? The fourth book in the Uglies series is full of action and unique characters. At times the inventions seem contrived, and at other times ingenious. There is some surprising science interjected within the plot which balances out some of the silly fame banter.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens star ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Book hype usually puts me off of reading the title. I read it because it was in a bag of books dropped off to me, and I read it in one day. Somewhat implausible, yet a well told story with courtroom drama that rivals the glory of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lady Susan by Jane Austen ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Lady Susan is not usually counted amongst Austen’s titles. Speculation could be it is so short it’s not a novel but a long short story, at best a novella. Another speculation being Lady Susan is so totally unlike any of Austen novels that it is in a category of its own. Somewhat like that one really peculiar meal that a prestigious chef once made that, well, just wasn’t up to par with the other fine cuisine, so we just won’t mention it. Out of courtesy. Lady Susan is no Lizzie Bennet, not an Emma, and definitely unlike any of the heroines Austen has presented to readers. Lady Susan is an unscrupulous conniver—in fact there is no one worth rooting for in the story. On the other hand, it is Jane Austen—just nod and say it was delicious, but you probably won’t be asking for seconds.
I should have rolled a wheelbarrow into the library and started emptying shelves. It doesn’t help that my Goodreads counter keeps nudging me that I am behind in my book reading. I know. I know.
One month to go until we celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday or reflect upon his death. Tough call since Shakespeare was born/died on the same day–supposedly April 23. Which way to acknowledge that auspicious day? Rejoice in his birth? Remorse of his death?
Shakespeare shares this notable event known as the “birthday effect” with other famous folk such as the painter Raphael (April 6), Ingrid Bergman (August 29), Grant Wood (February 13), known for the painting, American Gothic, and Corrie Ten Boom (April 15).
Born/died in 1616, the year marks of 2020 marks the 404 for William. It is appropriate that April is designated National Poetry Month, since Shakespeare perfected the sonnet, churning out some 154 of the iambic pentameter driven contributions to poetry and reflective muse.
While most Shakespeare aficionados and fans are content with being titled as Bardolators, I have chosen Bardinator since the difference is being a bit more determined to keep returning to understand his work–yeah, it is similar to a certain movie icon who keeps up with that line of “I’ll be back.” I teach Shakespeare, I relish his genius with words, yet I don’t like all his works (especially those with pies). I do want to keep returning to understand his wit and expertise with turning a phrase. After ten plus years of teaching Hamlet to high school students I am still discovering aspects of the play that just absolutely make me jump up and down with excitement. And yes, my students do wonder how I get so involved with Shakespeare. Even the Muppets appreciate Shakespeare.
Stay tuned for more Bard Bits as his birthday approaches…
Good news, especially unexpected good news that pops up in the email agenda, is very much welcome. And when it is a good news about my debut book’s first professional review—well, that news needs to be shared!
Last week my publisher emailed me Kirkus Reviews reception of Someday We Will. I was told I had to keep it on the quiet until January 21. The calendar now provides an all clear…
And here is what Kirkus has to say:
“While long-distance relationships can be a bit difficult to maintain even with the possibilities of today’s technology, this will surely encourage good strategic discussion to quell the impatience of waiting for the next welcoming stay at a grandparent’s home.Captures the eager anticipation of reunions with loving grandparents. (Picture book. 3-7).”
I shared this good news with our local children’s librarian and she congratulated me, mainly getting my book reviewed, commenting that many children’s books don’t get reviewed.
Good news received and shared with you. I am hoping for more positive reviews.
The book’s publish date is April 7th—getting closer!
One aspect of ushering out the year of previous is reflection. The year of 2019 has been one of changes—some sad, some significant, and some ongoing.
Among these changes are milestones. A couple worth mentioning:
WordPress has informed me that I began my journey with them eight years ago. In dog years, which is somewhat equivalent to blog years, that would be nearly sixty years of contributing and sharing my thoughts with others. Thumbs up!👍🏻
Goodreads notified me that I’ve read 139 books for the year, up four from last year. And I should have 140 read by this weekend. Woo hoo! 👏
I applied for a part time librarian position at our local high school in 1999 and twenty years later I am in the classroom having become a certified English teacher, expounding on the merits of literature, language, and composition. Whew!😅
In 1992 Highlights for Children published a story of mine, “Marvin Composes a Tea.” It was awarded their Author of the Month and is the title-lead story in a Boyd’s Mills Press anthology. Although I thought my author career had started with a flourish, and I anticipated dozens of published books by now, twenty-seven years later my picture book Someday We Will: a book for grandparents and grandchildren was accepted by Beaming Books. A little later than expected, but happy nonetheless! 📚
And a very significant milestone is that my mother turns 93 at the end of 2019. Having survived Hitler’s war as a teenager in Germany, she has also survived cancer, a heart attack, and has buried three husbands, a son, two brothers, her parents, and keeps forging on. Yup, she’s feisty and tenacious of life. So happy birthday, Mom!🎊🎁🎉
I’m looking forward to 2020–difficult to avoid that 20/20 comparison of seeing life with a clear focus.
How about you, what milestones happened for you in 2019?
I’m taking up Susanna Leonard Hill‘s challenge of writing a children’s holiday story. It must be about a holiday treat and it must not exceed 250 (that is a challenge). From what I understand the prizes are an array of writer delights–critiques, writing courses, book bundles, references and resource books. How could I not be tempted!
This story is based on an actual recipe handed down to me from my German grandmother, my Oma. We always called it her Christmas cookie recipe, but I have since learned it is a type of shortbread. I might be convinced to post the recipe (if I can find where it’s been tucked away in my recipe books). I’ll be anticipating whether my story made the finalist list…
OMA’S SECRET INGREDIENT by Pam Webb (207 words)
“What makes your Christmas cookies taste so good, Oma? Do you use a secret ingredient?”
Oma laughed. “I use nothing but what you see here in my kitchen,” Then, as if a thought had tickled her, she smiled just ever so. “Actually, Engelin, I do use a secret ingredient. You guess what it is.”
Greta looked at all the different spices and canisters in Oma’s kitchen, wondering which ingredient it could be that made the cookies so delicious.
The next day, after Christmas Eve dinner, Greta brought out the dessert tray. Glancing at Oma, Greta saw the happiness reflected on her grandmother’s face as she watched everyone enjoy the baked treats. Realizing then what the secret ingredient was, Greta selected a heart cookie from the dessert plate. She quietly made her way over to Oma, presenting it to her. “I know what the secret ingredient is,” she whispered.
Oma whispered back, “Is this so?”
“Mmhmm,” Greta nodded. “It doesn’t come from any of your spice jars. And I know you put it in all you do, not just cookies,” she added, giving her grandmother a measured hug of love.
“Yes, my little angel, love makes everything taste that much better.”
Do you have a special Christmas recipe handed down from a special relative?
One of those learned Shakespeare facts to pull out to impress students is that he died on his birthday. They think that fact is weird and cool. I used to think Mark Twain died on his birthday as well. Turns out I was wrong. He came into the world with Halley’s Comet and left when it reappeared. Now, that is a weird and cool fact that gets my attention.
According to Mental Floss, there is a phenomena known as The Birthday Effect. Apparently a person has a 14 percent higher chance of dying on his or her birthday. The Swiss did a study in 2012, so it must be true. This probably isn’t a planned event, at least it’s hoped not. That would be a terrible closure to a birthday party. It’s conjectured that Shakespeare partied a bit too “merrily” with his chums and succumbed to a fever. Watch out for combining ale and pickled herring. Or at least check the expiration date on the herring.
April 23, 1616. This is both Shakespeare’s birthday and day of passing, making him 403 years old. There isn’t much of a to-do at 403, but his 400th birthday was a world wide event. Stopping to think about it, if you celebrate his birthday you are also celebrating his death. I don’t think Hallmark makes a birthday condolence card. Yet. On a lighter consideration, Shakespeare does share this Birthday Effect with some other notables. Maybe this is a condolence of sorts, that he shares his birthday/deathday with a few other famous folk:
I’m known as The Shakespeare Lady at school. Well, I do prod along that image by introducing myself as such at Shakesperience and other opps. I also get VERY excited when I teach Shakespeare. I wear a range of t-shirts sporting the likeness of Shakespeare and attach my “To Be or Not To Be” button on my lapel when we delve in to Hamlet.
I go beyond appreciating Shakespeare. I am past being a fan. How do I put it?
People who adore Shakespeare, who are involved, are those who go beyond the occasional dabbling, watching, and appreciating. News feed alerts sport Bard bits of interest, outrage at hints of him not being the true author of his works, random drops of trivia pop out–these are all symptoms of going beyond simply being a fan. I have a term for such a person:
Bardinator /n./ a person who goes beyond face value knowledge of Shakespearean works and dives in to study, appreciate, and revel in the works of William Shakespeare to the point of total commitment. Simply put–a dedication to the Bard’s works beyond what is considered sufficiently normal.
I am a Bardinator. Sounds like the Terminator, I know. Maybe there is some similarity. Committed purpose (focus on his works), time traveler (going back 400 years to understand his word and then jumping to present time to insert relevance), and perhaps being intimidating (I would like to think so, at least).
There are probably an assortment of fan tags out there for Bard aficionados. For now, I will continue my quest to learn more about his works. I have yet to fully understand all his plays and sonnets. I’m in no real rush. I need something to look forward to in retirement.
So much is focused on what Shakespeare wrote. Lots of kerfuffle if he actually wrote what he wrote. Mmm, not going there. Instead–
Isn’t anyone curious what he looked like?
Here are the traditional portraits:
And the not so traditional portraits:
I honestly think old Ben Jonson had it spot on when he said Shakespeare was for all time. Shakespeare would fit in well today with his styling soul patch, facial trim, and flowing curls with dome. The pumpkin pants are a no go though. Same for the neck ruff. Only cats recovering from nasty bouts with other cats should wear those.
For the more academic aspect of Shakespeare portraiture, tune in here.